When more than 800 leaders from business, academia, civil society and government convene at the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai next week, the Global Agenda Council on Values hopes to serve as the glue between the more than 80 Councils that are addressing the most pressing issue of our time.

By engendering a cross-Council dialogue, the Council on Values can act as a bridge between the public and private sector, between different industries, faiths, cultures and generations, and different sets of values.

In light of the financial crisis, growing social divides in many countries and deepening mistrust in business, a multistakeholder dialogue on values is more important than ever. In our hyperconnected world, the consequences of our actions are more transparent and dramatically amplified, and the gap between values and behaviour is increasingly open to public scrutiny and subject to systemic effects.

Consumers and citizens demand more transparent, collaborative and inclusive models of value creation that produce well-being, happiness and meaning as much as profits. However, it appears that even well-articulated and broadly supported moral principles are difficult to translate into day-to-day decision-making.

The mission of the Global Agenda Council on Values is to develop not only a new mindset, but also a new toolset for a more moral economy. It is tackling this complex challenge with a three-pronged approach:

First, we aim to expose the values that underpin our attitudes and behaviours and to better understand how they influence our decision-making at the regional, industry and global level. We are beginning this exercise in our own front yard, so to speak, by conducting a cross-Council study that examines the values underlying all Global Agenda Councils. Our goal is to map out correlations between values that can yield relevant insights for society at large.

Second, we intend to clearly articulate the values for the global economic system and create a participatory framework for all stakeholders. To that end, the Global Agenda Council on Values has drafted a “social covenant” based on a new set of shared values in order to realign the private and public sector on the role of business in society. A first draft of this framework was shared in Davos this year and we plan to refine it further in Dubai.

Third, the Council will focus on how digital technology, especially mobile and social computing, can help make moral principles tangible through social networks, gamification and smart devices, with particular focus on the younger generation of “netizens”. We are keen on involving the tech community because software appears to have great potential (and moral responsibility) as it enables most of our actions and interactions, and transports values either explicitly or implicitly.

As a first direct outcome, the Council on Values organized a Reinvent Business hackathon. More than 150 software developers, designers and business leaders came together in San Francisco to explore innovative products and services that have the capacity to change corporate behaviour from within. The Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai is expected to weave all these three tracks together, as well as spark new insights and ideas.

Identifying and promoting shared values is important, but the real litmus test for a moral economy is the respect it can afford for the values of others. This is particularly true for our ever more connected world where the other is just one click away and we are all neighbours.

If the Global Agenda Council on Values can help articulate what we have in common while appreciating what distinguishes us, then we will have made a small but meaningful contribution to improving the state of the world.

Author: Tim Leberecht is the Chief Marketing Officer of frog, a global design and innovation firm, and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on Values.

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